VENEZUELA: 'Waiting for our president


Jim McIlroy & Coral Wynter, Caracas

"We are waiting for our Commandante Chavez. That's why we are here. Together, we are going to win the 10 million votes!" That was the explanation of a member of Club of Grandmothers of Catia (a low-income western suburb of Caracas), who, along with other "Chavistas", were waiting for Hugo Chavez — the president of Venezuela and leader of the Bolivarian revolution that is bringing radical change to the country.

The grandmothers were waiting on the morning of September 1 for the return of Chavez from an overseas trip that took him to China, Malaysia, Syria and Angola. The trip was aimed at developing economic links and building an international anti-imperialist alliance with other Third World countries, to confront the US government and its allies around the world.

The grandmothers were part of a massive welcoming committee, which grew to a 100,000 or more. The crowd marched with the truck carrying Chavez all along the road from Catia to the inner suburb of El Silencio, where he delivered his most important electoral address yet, launching his campaign for the December 3 presidential elections.

Chavez and his supporters have undertaken a big task in the election: to gain 10 million votes, from an estimated voting enrolment of 16 million (out of Venezuela's total population of 26 million), as a reaffirmation of the revolutionary course that Chavez has steered the nation on.

Chavez declared to his supporters that the people needed to have "unity, consciousness and discipline, in order to defend the country from imperialist aggression". The September 2 Diario Vea said the president had affirmed that "the battle is not only electoral, but moral and ideological. It is a battle against imperialism." The president said that there were "only have two candidatures: that of the patriots and that of the enemies of the country".

He said that if there's "another April 11 [2002, when a US backed military coup briefly ousted Chavez] comes, there'll be another April 13 [2002, when Chavez was returned to power by mass mobilisations of Venezuela's poor]."